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Thread: Music That Expands Our Horizons

  1. #1
    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Music That Expands Our Horizons

    I am launching this as an addendum to my “Music of Outstanding Merit” thread. It is intended to be about expanding listening horizons while still showcasing music of merit. It is more about individualistic artists than genres. If you only like to listen to regular “songs” this might be slim pickings. These initial posts feature very well recorded CDs, worth mentioning even though this thread is about music, not recording.

    Feel free to add your own horizon expanding or genre busting favorites.


    Colin Towns is the man behind Provocateur Records in the UK. Their online store seems to be extinct but I presume the titles are still available through outlets like CD Baby and Import CDs. I personally own a ton of titles from this label. He is a very good musician himself ands uses other top shelf talent to flesh out his compositions. His catalog includes several genres but his take on each is unique or close to it. They range from trios and quartets to a Jazz orchestra of nearly seventy pieces. Almost anything from Provocateur will be unusual but here is a title or two.

    One is Still Life (1998), Colin Towns’ Mask Quintet with Maria Pia De Vito. Since the mentioned singer is one of the most accomplished alive, these are indeed songs. The music is hard to pin down as like this or like that, but all are easy to relate to. They just come from a different place or three. It is not the lyrics so much as the music and the way each piece flows. In my opinion they are superior to the usual product. Almost all Provocateur CDs with Colin Towns as a leader have this in common.

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    Another I have mentioned before, Verso - DeVito/Taylor/Towner (2000). That trio would be Maria Pia DeVito again with the alternative spelling, Ralph Towner and the late, great pianist John Taylor. This came together when the musicians' mutual admiration society became irresistible. The styles mashed up here are Jazz, World and Towner’s unique music DNA. The music might seem almost familiar until you realize no one else sounds quite like this combo.

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    These both have De Vito and she is herself a very different animal. The source of her tremendous vocal range (more like six than five octaves) is mysterious until you hear her deep speaking voice. She came from operatic training if memory serves, but her combo of Jazz, World, experimental and Art music is given free reign on all of her titles on this label, and resembles no one else’s work. You will hear far less use of vibrato and much more acrobatic pitch changing than other singers employ, all to very musical effect. When she skat sings it is not from the Ella Fitzgerald end of the Jazz universe.
    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Kaki King

    Kaki (Katherine) King is one of the best guitarists there is, but works from a left field of her own creation. She is instantly recognizable and completely unique. The only guitarists who sometimes sound anything like her are copying her. Her initial acoustic style possessed mind numbing dexterity and a touch of ferocity, invoking in my mind the phrase “She’s all over he fucking thing”. She has since added a unique take on lap steel and has played an acoustic guitar with a second bridge in the middle, playing both sides at once. She is diminutive but small hands have not slowed her down. She was a drummer too and her playing often reflects that. A unique, monstrous talent that creates unique music.


    Glow (2012) is one of my favorites of her titles. There is a string quartet on it and her use of it on the opening track is quite different from the usual uses of the format. You’ll see. For this tour she began using a fixed mounting for a white Ovation Adamas and had a system developed that maps the guitar and projects moving images on it. It’s really striking. The music she composes takes full advantage of her abilities, so naturally it is a different take on how to play guitar and other instruments in the service of a tune.

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    Junior (2010) is as close to a regular CD as she has come. She sings on the tunes and there is even a touch of Rock to it. “Falling Day” is a barn burner of a single. It is pop music but not like anything on the charts. The visual design of the CD art is a lot of fun and might explain why one of the songs is titled “Communist Friends”. Again, everything sounds pretty different from the way anyone else would have done it. If you play your cards right you can get an edition of the CD that has a bonus DVD in it. The drummers on this CD are amazing. Being comfortable sitting at the battery herself, she knows how to spot one.

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    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Hilary Hahn: Silfra

    The violinist Hilary Hahn is well known. Less well known is her relentless musical exploration and penchant for not repeating herself. This has made her something of a gifted outsider in the world of classical music. A frighteningly talented player, she is the one who plays impossible to play works. I saw a video of her performing a wickedly challenging etude. Then she, seemingly without effort, played it double speed. In her CD of 27 new encores she commissioned, you can hear nearly every style of violin music. Her label, Deutsche Grammophon, has gone along with her pairing works by the usual Classical Music composers alongside bold modern composers. It is great to hear Schoenberg and Higdon interpreted by a gifted contemporary musician. My favorite release of Hilary’s is much further off the beaten path.

    Silfra (2012) is an improvised collaboration with Volker Bertelmann, known as Hauschka, who plays prepared piano. It ends up prepared piano goes way beyond thumb tacks on the strings. The Silfra Rift (off Iceland) “marks the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is preternaturally still, colored in shades of blue and green not found anywhere else.” The music here is inspired by the place and inspires me when I hear it. If you are a Classical music fan, try Silfra as a change of pace.

    From Napster: “Hilary Hahn loves to upset expectations, which is why she's recorded both Bach and Schoenberg. But her improvised collaboration with composer and prepared-pianist Hauschka -- who often plays to indie crowds -- could surprise those who think they know the violinist's range. Rehearsing off-and-on for two years before this recording, they developed a language that keeps the jam sessions from being free-for-alls; the payoff of "Adash" and the suite-like "Godot" could pass for composed. Still, there's a hint of wildness throughout this, one of the more striking instrumental albums in recent memory.”

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    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
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  4. #4
    Senior Member BMWCCA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ducatista47 View Post
    Kaki (Katherine) King is one of the best guitarists there is, but works from a left field of her own creation. She is instantly recognizable and completely unique. The only guitarists who sometimes sound anything like her are copying her. Her initial acoustic style possessed mind numbing dexterity and a touch of ferocity, invoking in my mind the phrase “She’s all over he fucking thing”. She has since added a unique take on lap steel and has played an acoustic guitar with a second bridge in the middle, playing both sides at once. She is diminutive but small hands have not slowed her down. She was a drummer too and her playing often reflects that. A unique, monstrous talent that creates unique music.
    Wow! Listening to tracks from her "Live at Berklee" which is simply amazing. Getting ready to pull the trigger on a couple of her CDs. Wanting instant gratification, I was wondering what the "produced on demand" CDs are like on Amazon. My preference would be to order from the artist's own web site, thinking maybe they benefit more from it that way.

    I think I'll start with "Glow" and "Live at Berklee".

    Thanks again for another beautiful recommendation!
    ". . . as you have no doubt noticed, no one told the 4345 that it can't work correctly so it does anyway."—Greg Timbers

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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    You are in for a surprise when you hear Glow. In a less collaborative setting, sans orchestra, she carries the load...and she is on fire. In the Berklee recording, she is buried in the mix.

    I do enjoy buying directly from the artist. They do get all the money. Some bands with a major label history don't have control of all their catalog. Cowboy Junkies can try to send you everything but their RCA recordings, for instance. Musicians usually will sign everything at no additional charge, at least if they are not a big deal in the business. If they use a fulfillment service I suppose not, but I seem to gravitate to musicians who do this out of their homes. Cindy Combs and Terri Nunn both signed and wrote messages in multiple places on everything they sent, and I didn't even ask them to. The independent musicians I like tend to be wonderful human beings, not surprisingly. Julie Fowlis and her band were the nicest people imaginable. And they all signed every CD I brought with me, not just my purchase.
    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


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    Senior Member BMWCCA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ducatista47 View Post
    You are in for a surprise when you hear Glow. In a less collaborative setting, sans orchestra, she carries the load...and she is on fire.
    I listened to Glow on Spotify and ordered both CDs from the link on her web site. Mentioned her to my daughter, an aspiring musician in Brooklyn where Kaki is also based. She remembers listening to her a decade or so ago while in school. I mentioned that Kaki is making a NYC appearance this month.

    Thanks again!
    ". . . as you have no doubt noticed, no one told the 4345 that it can't work correctly so it does anyway."—Greg Timbers

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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Lisa Gerrard: The Black Opal (2011)

    With billions of human voices on Earth, it is unlikely that any one singing voice is unique. There are, however, instances of someone making a unique contribution to the vocal arts with an unsurpassed set of pipes in the service of a unique muse. Lisa Gerrard is known, as far as she is, as the female half of Dead Can Dance and a maven of motion picture soundtracks. The Black Opal is an example of what she was interested in doing in 2009 without yielding any trace of pop music.

    Possible to tag as Art Music, this release is either many genres or belonging to none; feel free to decide. Whatever it is, her contribution to musical vocalization has always been unique. She has been wildly creative from a young age. Lisa can sing in several languages, including one of her own. She developed a "Twin language" (unique languages twins sometimes develop to talk to each other) - but she had no twin. Nowhere here is there any trace of vocal gymnastics or trickery, or cuteness for that matter. She simply has a marvelous, versatile, expressive, and seemingly effortless voice. I may be an old softy, but I can't hear the closing track, the lullaby "Sleep" rendered solo by Lisa and her piano, without weeping tears of melancholic joy.

    I don't think this will appeal to very many listeners here, but I put it out on this thread because it is undeniably a work of genius by a genius and is unlikely to resemble anything you have previously heard. The instrumental music is on the serious or dark side, she is considered a bit Goth by some, and I love it. Powerful, thrilling and subtle at the same time. The only way I knew of to obtain The Black Opal was to buy it and download it from her website; I did so in the FLAC format, both the main disc and a bonus selection. Recorded in 2009 and released in 2011, it is (basic disc only) on Amazon, but only an mp3.

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    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Philip Glass: Akhnaten

    The recording I heard (today while mowing the lawn, streaming Napster on an iPod) was by the Stuggart State Opera, Orchestra & Chorus. Sony Classical, 2003. I knew it only by reputation but immediately realized what it was. I found the semi-minimalist music mesmerizing. Some will feel it is monotonous. In any case, it is not your father's opera and is possessed of great intelligence, both formal and casual. A powerful assault on the senses and sensibilities. It certainly tells a story as well.

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    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Watching Kaki King Do Her Thing

    A visual followup of Kaki performing with the Passerelle Bridge; a performance of her original acoustic style; and if I can find it something from her recent release Live At Berklee (she composes some interesting music). Note that when using the Passerelle (available on her website) she executes a bend by pressing vertically on the string. Of course, that takes that (other) side of the string out of its ability to play a note for the moment. I'm glad she can figure it out at playing speed, my old brain can't suck it up that hard. She plays six-string open harmonics on all her guitars by slapping the strings. Kaki always seems to find a way to play the sound in her head. Anyone who can use Harvey Mandel and Michael Hedges as a STARTING point earns my admiration. As a bonus, a song with her guitar mapping projection software on display, and a couple of other gems. Every note here is played live.

    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


  12. #12
    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


  13. #13
    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Songs from The Neck is a Bridge to the Body CD, live

    This CD came out after Glow and before Live at Berklee. Amazing music on this one.

    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


  14. #14
    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Live rehersal in a choir loft with the string Quartet ETHYL

    Notice the small (Sony?) digital recorder on a tiny stand on the floor. They would have killed for that in 1928...or 1968. This song ended up leading off Glow.

    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


  15. #15
    Senior Member grumpy's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting re Kaki King!

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